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Extension lead

Nearly 30 years after the A320 entered service, Airbus is preparing to publish maintenance tasks for the latest neo variant, while further optimising requirements for established models. Ian Goold reports

As the first A320 twinjet is prepared for consignment to a museum after three decades of flight-testing, Airbus is about to publish maintenance-related tasks for the latest neo variant and for aircraft equipped with Sharklet wingtips, while continuing to optimise requirements for the whole single-aisle family. The European manufacturer is also developing a new fatigue monitoring programme, but has decided not to lengthen the type's 120,000 flight-hour (FH)/60,000 flight-cycle (FC) extended service goal (ESG). 


Although there is no calendar-age limit for A320 revenue service, after more than a quarter-century of operation, the design is among the most in-demand narrowbody candidates as a source for spare parts.


Optimisation of A320 maintenance requirements saw more than 200 tasks (including all C check zonal work) reviewed during several systems and powerplant working-group meetings last year, Torsten Roeger, Manager Maintenance Programme A318/A319/A320/A321, Airbus Customer Services. "For around 60%, an interval increase could be justified, [while for] around 10% the tasks have been deleted."


Under plans to refine light maintenance tasks, operators and maintenance-review board (MRB) authorities comprising the A320 industry steering committee (ISC) recently agreed to review typical A check requirements in an effort that could see inspection intervals increased from 750 FH and/or 750 FC and/or 120 day periods introduced eight years ago. The review will start in the second half of this year and is expected to be completed "by mid-2019", according to Roeger.


As well as recommending procedures for aircraft being flown in low or high utilisation regimes, Airbus offers customised solutions that allow operators to optimise maintenance programmes and/or planning (see box story). "The goal is to increase aircraft availability, improve cost-effectiveness, and reduce maintenance costs, while maintaining safety. Optimisation needs to be combined with tailored planning [and our] programmes have been designed to consider pre-packaged checks."


João Oliveira, Fleet Engineering, Maintenance Program Engineer at TAP M&E, says Airbus has simplified the maintenance-planning document (MPD) by "restricting source documents to MRB Report (MRBR), Airworthiness Limitation Section (ALS), ETOPS and, Configuration, Maintenance and Procedures (CMP) documents; removing other non-essential sources – AD/SBs and service-information leaflets (SILs); Vendor Recommendation Policy [revision]; and coordination and synchronisation between revisions of different source documents." (Airbus tells MRO Management that SIL documents are "about to be replaced by In Service Information (ISI).")


"The next MRBR change (Revision 22) will reflect results from evolution activities and cover requirements developed during A321 ESG development and A321neo certification," according to Roeger. Publication is planned for March 2017, with A321 ESG introduced in MPD Rev 43, MRBR Rev 22, ALS Part 2 Rev 6, and ALS Part 3 Rev 5. Last June's MRBR Rev 21 covered tasks for A320neos powered by CFM International Leap-1A engines and optimisation of the systems section, says Oliveira.


The last adjustment to A320 maintenance schedules was in December 2010, when C check intervals were extended from 6,000 FH and/or 4,500 FC and/or 20 months to 7,500 FH and/or 5,000 FC and/or 24 months. Similarly, A check timing was raised to 750 FH and/or 750 FC and/or 4 months from 600 FH and/or 750 FC and/or 100 days in March 2009. More than 12 years ago, in June 2004, A320 heavy check periods increased from 5 to 10 years and 10 to 12 years.


The manufacturer's philosophy is to move from ‘hard’ intervals to more-flexible concepts, with operators grouping checks according to the type of operation. Two years ago, over 100 C check tasks saw intervals raised from 24 to 36 months (or FH/FC equivalent) or deleted.  


A 2016 review permitted more operators to make the same extension to base-check intervals without significantly increasing the scope of A check events (tasks that do not achieve 36 months must be scheduled during A checks). Ahead of 6 year heavy checks, A320 Family structure-inspection requirements do not impose aircraft ground time longer than an overnight stop.


Now, an Airbus belief that the A320 Family maintenance programme will benefit from yet further optimisation has stimulated the upcoming review of light checks, although the manufacturer is cautious about the rate of such development. Asked about possible timing for an increase in 36 months (or equivalent FH/FC) intervals, Roeger says that Airbus has focused on "achieving 36 months for typical base-check tasks. Then, we need to collect data from task performances at the increased interval. There are currently no plans for the next steps; this will be driven by in-service feedback."


In line with Airbus’ move to synchronise revision of maintenance documents, the current A320 Family MPD (Rev 42) appeared in June 2016 alongside MRBR Rev 21 (and included ALS Part 2 Rev 5, Part 3 Rev 4, Part 4 Rev 4, and Part 5 Rev 3). TAP M&E's Oliveira says that SILs and SBs comprised "less than 10% of revised MPD tasks", while Lee Burgess, Head of Engineering at Monarch Aircraft Engineering Limited (MAEL), notes that last June's revisions to four out of five ALS Parts have been supplemented by several variations. >>

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